Click here to submit your sports results for The Canberra Times

Doping fight shifts from blood to brain

A CANBERRA-based research team is thinking outside the box in the war against doping in sport.

Rather than monitoring blood samples, the team, led by Dr James Connor of the University of NSW Canberra campus, will investigate cross-cultural perspectives on the critical issue.

The work has caught the attention of the World Anti-Doping Agency, which has awarded the team a grant so it can proceed with the research.

Connor cited the ongoing investigations of the Essendon Bombers and the Cronulla Sharks, as well as the recent revelations that Australian cyclist Stuart O'Grady used erythropoietin before the 1998 Tour de France, as proof a different approach needs to be taken.

''The problem with anti-doping rules is they take a 'one-size-fits-all' approach and don't take into account cultural variation, especially when it comes to the idea of fairness and winning,'' Connor said.

''A key aspect of the anti-doping fight is building the belief that anti-doping is effective and fair.


''Athletes, coaches and administrators also have to believe that anti-doping rules and regulations are reasonable and don't unduly burden an athlete.

''If athletes have a perception those anti-doping rules are not fair, legitimate and in their best interests, they won't comply with them.''

Rugby league star Johnathan Thurston was less than impressed when ASADA officials arrived at his house at 6am last week for blood and urine samples.

A representative player told Fairfax Media ASADA had increased its testing of NRL players this season.

''They've really ramped it up,'' the player said.

''At the time when they come around you're annoyed, but I guess they have to if people are cheating.''

Players were tested immediately after the first State of Origin game, and testing officials made two separate trips to the Queensland camp to test half a dozen players each time.

Connor believed more positive cases, such as the handful of Jamaican sprinters who failed drug tests, would act as a deterrent for other athletes.

''One of the big problems currently is the perception that anti-doping measures are failing, which may lead athletes to lose faith in the process and thus start using performance-enhancing drugs themselves,'' Connor said.

''The current Australian Crime Commission and ASADA investigation into Australian sport science practices shows just how important research on doping is.''

The research will include athletes, support personnel, administrators, bureaucrats, civil servants and politicians across Oceania.

The project, titled ''Legitimating the fight: Cross-cultural perspectives on anti-doping strategies in the Pacific'', is funded by WADA's social science research fund.